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What activities may be considered cyber crimes?

Previously, many incidents of alleged theft involved circumstances in which an accused individual was believed to have personally take physical belongings from another. For example, an individual facing identify theft charges may have been accused of rummaging through someone's trash. Today, however, acts involving the unlawful access and use of sensitive personal and financial information readily involve the use of computers and are widely referred to as cyber crimes.

North Carolina residents have likely followed news of the recent cyber attack on Sony which was reportedly carried out by hackers from North Korea. Just this week, the United States military's Central Command Twitter account was also hacked by individuals claiming allegiance to the extremist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

While the hacks on Sony and the U.S. Defense Department appear to be politically motivated, most so-called hacks are carried out as a means to obtain personal identifying and financial information. For example, last year the security networks of both Target and Home Depot were breached and the personal data of customers stolen.

Many smaller security breaches are never reported on, but individuals who are accused of playing a role in these types cyber crime operations are aggressively prosecuted. In North Carolina a range of computer-related activities are considered unlawful and may result in an individual facing misdemeanor or felony charges.

For example, an individual who is accused of accessing a school's testing or grades database may face misdemeanor computer crimes charges and an individual who is accused of hacking a secured network for financial gain could face more serious or felony charges. Additionally, criminal charges may be filed against an individual who is accused of using a computer network or social media website as a means to carryout acts of cyber-bullying.

For individuals who are facing criminal charges related to a cyber crime, it's important to take such charges seriously and understand one's options. A criminal defense attorney can answer questions, provide advice and represent one's best interests as a case proceeds.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Cyber Crimes," 2015

Findlaw.com, "North Carolina Computer Crimes Laws," 2015

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